Our reviews: Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards (Drama)
Next Tuesday, the winners of the 2014 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards will be announced, in five categories: fiction, poetry, non-fiction, writing for young adults and drama.
Each day this week, we’ll focus on one category, sharing excerpts of our reviewers' responses to the shortlisted titles.
Today, it’s drama.
Savages, Patricia Cornelius
Reviewed by Chris Boyd
The more one reads about the events surrounding Dianne Brimble’s death on the Pacific Sky cruise ship in September 2002 — from witness statements, media and coroner’s reports, and from Geesche Jacobsen’s book Abandoned (Allen & Unwin, 2010) in particular — the less one understands the eight men named as ‘persons of interest’. They seem to have been on the hunt from the moment they boarded their respective planes in Adelaide.
In Savages, rather than conduct an inquest into the events, playwright Patricia Cornelius tries to climb into the minds of the men in the ten or eleven hours between boarding and making their move on the last woman standing, just before closing time in the ship’s disco.
The Secret River by Kate Grenville, adapted for the stage by Andrew Bovell
Reviewed by Stephanie Convery
Such a sharply abridged narrative is only further emphasised by the script’s departure from the structural restrictions of the original text. While Grenville left ‘a hollow in the book, a space of difference’ where the perspectives of the Indigneous characters lay, Bovell’s script gives the Dharug names, voices and personalities in their own right, flipping the structure of the source text on its head. Not only do they speak their own language — entirely untranslated in the STC production, much to the credit of the creative team — but their relationships with Thornhill, his family and his cohorts, not to mention their development as characters in their own right, finds greater depth and nuance in this representation, which gives them agency in a way that silence, no matter how benevolent its intentions, cannot.
Medea, Ann-Louise Sarks and Kate Mulvany
Reviewed by Thuy On
To reinvent a classic play is a brave endeavour: one would have to quell the concerns of the anticipatory audience by not messing about with the original too much, and yet there also has to be a spark of invention to the adaptation. After all, why even bother to write a different version if you’re not going to tinker with the old one a little?
Anne-Louise Sarks and Kate Mulvany have certainly created a startling new dimension to Euripedes’ best-known and perennially-staged play. They have updated it to a modern setting but rather than concentrating on the protagonists, Jason and Medea, they’ve chosen to focus on the victims of their warring: their young sons. By shining the spotlight on these minor players (in both senses of the word) and relegating the couple offstage, Sarks and Mulvany have added a layer of complexity to the drama. We are deliberately distracted from being caught up in their fiery, hateful dynamic of lust and retribution, and are led to contemplate the innocence of childhood instead, too easily overridden by the all-powering concerns of adults.